Wavecrest Woody Shoot – Encinitas Calfornia

Wavecrest Woody Woodie Moonlight Beach Encinitas California Surf SurfingCanon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 70mm, f/8 for 1/50s at ISO 100, circular polarizer


This post is a slight continuation to my post yesterday regarding my photos on display at Westfield UTC. The same client had expressed interest in doing a surf themed 5 photo collage so my wife and I headed down to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas to attend Wavecrest, the largest Woody gathering in California to grab some photos. Due to the requirements of the display cases, the photos are cropped as a square.

For those not familiar, Woodies have a strong connection with the surf culture of the 60’s here in California. They can be seen in various movies including classics such as “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964) and “Beach Blanket Bingo” (1965) with surf boards either attached to the roofs or sticking out of their tailgates. They have also been immortalized in songs such as “Surf City” by Jan & Dean and “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boys.

Wavecrest Woody Woodie Moonlight Beach Encinitas California Surf SurfingCanon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 41mm, f/8 for 1/125s at ISO 100, circular polarizer

How to get this type of shot

Shooting events like this is always challenging. You have to deal with what I call the “Three C’s”, Crowds, Clutter and Crappy light.

When you go to the largest Woody show in California, you have to expect crowds. Our plan was to show up early before the swell of people and hopefully get some clean compositions. Unfortunately, this did not work out and we arrived shortly after 10am where there were already hundreds of people and an average of 4 to 5 individuals checking out each of the cars. Similarly, “clutter” is everywhere, either in the form of other cars you are trying not to include in your composition, tents people set up to stay cool or the various flags, poles, advertisement banners and houses from the surrounding areas.

When faced with this type of situation, it is often best to shoot from a low perspective so that you can use the sky and palm trees as your background. You also have to learn to be patient and wait for the right time to trip the shutter when everyone has left the frame. In addition, you need to really pay attention to what is both in your background and at the edge of your frame. Carefully look to see what is behind what you are shooting. See that ugly red tent? Moving over a couple of feet or shooting from a lower angle will probably get rid of it. “Hey that looks like a cut off arm in my shot, and why is there is a floating head in my photo?”. Pay attention to your borders and don’t trip the shutter unless you are 100% happy with what is in the frame and maybe just as important, what is not in your frame.

Wavecrest Woody Woodie Moonlight Beach Encinitas California Surf SurfingCanon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 70mm, f/8 for 1/100s at ISO 100, circular polarizer

This takes us to the final and probably most important “C”, crappy light. These events almost always take place during the middle of the day, and in this case from 8:30am to 3:00pm. I had to deal with the harsh mid-day sun for most of my shoot. The number one weapon I found to combat this is through the use of a polarizer. Depending on the angle of the sun in respect to your camera, you can darken your skies and, most importantly, reduce or eliminate reflections off of the objects you are trying to photograph. In this case, photographing shiny cars and polished surfboards and getting good color saturation would have been next to impossible without the use of a polorizer. Generally speaking when I am shooting outdoors during the day, I have a polarizer screwed to the front of my lens about 80% of the time.

There is one drawback to using a polarizer though, and that is the 1.5 – 2 stop reduction in light. This of course means you are using a 3 to 4 times slower shutter speed compared to shooting without a polarizer, and if you are shooting hand held as I was doing this day, and at large f-stops without the benefit of an image stabilized lens, it can lead to some less than sharp photos.

If you are going to purchase a polarizer, I recommend using a high quality multi-coated one such as the B+W Kaesemann or what I use, the Hoya HD2 line of circular polarizing filters. Granted, they are not cheap, but the final output from your lens is only as good as its weakest link, and there is no sense in putting a $30 polarizer on the front of your $2000 optic.

Wavecrest Woody Woodie Moonlight Beach Encinitas California Surf SurfingCanon 5D Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 31mm, f/8 for 1/125s at ISO 100, circular polarizer


Wavecrest at the upper parking lot of Moonlight Beach State park, Encinitas, California (Coordinates: 33.047677,-117.296541)


15 thoughts on “Wavecrest Woody Shoot – Encinitas Calfornia

  1. Great photos and good story. Other great surf songs from the period (which you are probably too young to remember) are Pipeline by the Chantays, Wipeout by the Surfaris and my all time favorite, Surfer Joe, also by the Surfaris. I agree with your analysis of polarizers. While I hate to put anything in front of a good lens unless you have to, sometimes a good circular polarizer is a must, even with the need to slow down the shutter speed. In this case your photos show the rich colors which are there even in the harsh sunlight. Great job. I hope this commission works out for you!

  2. Another great series Mark, and your photos all come from such an interesting perspective. Crowds and crappy light are always a struggle, and you dealt with those so well…really pure shots. Wish you continued success on your surfing project.

  3. Great shots in challenging circumstances! I like the square format, too. It’s not used that often any more, except on instagram…

    • Thanks for stopping by and for your comment Johann. The square format really challenged how I composed the scene. Since I don’t have frame lines in the 3:2 viewfinder, it was pretty challenging determining the final crop in camera.

      • Good point about the frame lines. I had not thought of that. I don’t use it much but I’ve found live view to be very useful for that kind of thing.

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